Is Retinyl Palmitate Safe?

Is Retinyl Palmitate Safe?

The heated debate about the safety of retinyl palmitate, an ingredient found in many skin care products, can finally be laid to rest. As more research has become available, is it clear that retinyl palmitate is safe. Retinyl palmitate offers many benefits and is an ingredient that is highly recommended by leading dermatologists.

The dispute began in 2010 after an FDA study stated that retinyl palmitate caused cancer in laboratory mice. At face value, this seems like a simple case of cause and effect. However, after digging just a bit deeper, it is easy to see that there is more to the story. According to an article in the “Journal of Drugs in Dermatology” in an article called “Vitamin A and It’s Derivatives in Experimental Photocarcinogenesis: Preventive Effects and Relevance to Humans”, the authors state, “The data summarized in this review clearly indicate that SKH – 1 mouse skin is significantly more photosensitive than human skin and that retinyl palmitate is not only safe for topical use but that it may provide a UV-protective effect when incorporated into skin care products.” This is incredibly important and bears repeating: the skin of mice is thinner and more susceptible to sun damage than human skin. Consequently, the mouse skin in the study developed cancer regardless of the topical additives placed on its skin, simply because the skin is thinner and more sensitive to harmful UV rays. Therefore, retinyl palmitate is a completely benign ingredient.

Even more compelling is research that is coming forward that indicates that retinoids like retinyl palmitate are likely an effective agent for acting as a sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. The same article in the “Journal of Drugs in Dermatology” also asserted that, “RP can exert a photoprotective action in skin by absorbing UVB radiation. This protective effect was demonstrated when topical RP or sunscreen were applied to the buttocks of human volunteers and followed by a 4 MED exposure, both agents provided similar protection level in thymine-thymine (T-T) dimer formation and in the development of erythema.” The authors went on to add, “The SPF value for topical RP (2%) was calculated to be apporoximately 4, suggesting an additional protective mechanism that resulted in a performance equal to SPF 20 sunscreen.” This is incredibly important because UVB rays cause sunburns and thymine dimers are DNA mutations associated with skin cancer. Preventing the formation of thymine dimers and shielding the skin from harmful sunburns by using retinyl palmitate as a sunscreen is a wonderful way to protect the skin.

Not only can retinoids like retinyl palmitate act as a sunscreen, but they have also been proven to reduce the severity of skin cancer in studies that used not just mice, but humans, too. The study reported in the “Journal of Drugs in Dermatology” underscored this finding by stating, “Retinoids also inhibit tumor formation and skin cancer development in experimental systems and in humans.”

It’s clear that there is overwhelming evidence available to support the claim that retinlyl palmitate is not only safe, but is the single most important known compound to reduce the frequency of skin cancer, as well as provide protection as an effective sunscreen. ref Shapiro S, Seiberg M, Cole C. Vitamin A and Its Derivatives in Experimental Photocarcinogenesis: Preventative Effects and Relevance to Humans. J of Drugs in Derm: 2013:12 (4) 458 - 463.
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